5 October 2020   Leave a comment

Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to fight over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. The problems revolves around the mostly Armenian population that lives in the province which is within the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. The conflict highlights the difficulty of maintaining the fiction of the “nation-state”, the primary agent in the traditional study of international relations. The Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh consider themselves to be part of the Armenian nation but they live under the legal rule of the Azerbaijani state.

The fighting has been going on for 8 days and there is constant use of artillery shelling, including the use of the especially lethal cluster bombs, which is threatening large numbers of civilians. The conflict is drawing in Turkey on the side of Azerbaijan and Russia on the side of Armenia–Russia has a military base in Armenia. The conflict rests on the way both countries emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, although one could trace the conflict much further back in time. After the collapse, Nagorno-Karabakh declared its independence, which led to a war that is estimated to have killed 30,000 people and ultimately left the fate of the province within the territory of Azerbaijan.

Armenians constitute a well-organized political constituency in the US and there is considerable pressure on the US government to support Armenia in this conflict. And the fact that Turkey is supporting the Muslim-dominant state of Azerbaijan brings back the ugly memories of the Armenian genocide conducted by Turkey during World War I (a characterization that Turkey adamantly denies). But the US is not taking a stand in this conflict as it is preoccupied with the national election and the COVID-19 pandemic. Some European states are actively involved in trying to mediate the conflict, but I doubt that those efforts will yield much success. Interestingly, the US and Israel seem to be on different sides of this conflict, with Israel being a prime supplier of weaponry to Azerbaijan. According to Al-Monitor:

“According to reports, the scale of commercial ties — mainly arms deals — between Israel and Azerbaijan is colossal. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2016 arms exports from Israel to Azerbaijan added up to $250 million and $136 million in 2017. The institute noted that from 2015 to 2019, “A total of 60% of Azerbaijan’s arms imports came from Israel and 31% from Russia.”

“Another sphere of commercial ties is energy, with Azerbaijan exporting to Israel as much as 40% of its local petrol consumption. The Azeri petrol reaches Turkey via pipelines and from there it is shipped to Israel on boats. Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR is reportedly interested in buying shares in the Israeli Ashdod refinery.

“The strategic importance of Azerbaijan could explain Israel’s mild reaction to the Armenian accusations. Still, Jerusalem has been careful not to be publicly associated with the Azeri-Turkish camp. Jerusalem certainly does not consider Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a friend, and Israel maintains good diplomatic relations with Armenia. The Russian support of the Armenians also complicates things. Throughout his years as prime minister, Netanyahu has made a point of establishing good, even friendly ties, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He does not want to ruin them.”

The inability of the international community to effectively protect the civilians in this conflict is a travesty. And the inability and unwillingness of the US to use its good offices to mediate the crisis is a sobering measure of how much the US has disengaged from global politics.

Posted October 5, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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